Archive for May, 2011

Weathervane, West Lebanon, NH

Posted by annabelle On May - 25 - 2011ADD COMMENTS

weathervane west lebanon nh

Weathervane has been our tried-and-true dinner destination for years, but my husband and I usually don’t sit down for lunch there. Last week we were quite hungry and driving by the restaurant, and we made an impromptu stop.

If you live in New England (or on the east coast and like to travel) you’ve probably been to Weathervane and you know that it’s a chain restaurant. But as far as chain restaurants go, I find them a bit less kitsch than Applebee’s or Chili’s. I have heard people compare it to Spongebob Squarepants’ Krusty Krab, but that’s fine by me. Weathervane is definitely not a place to be taken too seriously.

Walking into the restaurant, we see the usual hanging wooden sea creatures and nautical knick-knacks. (Cue the Mr. Krabs jokes in 3,2,1..) It’s also kind of dim in there, which makes me wonder if their angle is to make us feel like we’re eating from the inside of a lobster boat. We sat down at one of the many large sorta-rustic-ish wooden tables and were able to get our drink orders in quickly. The waitress was prompt and knew the menu well. I mentioned before that we usually go for dinner. I generally order the chicken strips and fries for dinner because the portion size for the price (under $12) is so ridiculously huge that there’s always more than enough to take home, and I’m a big fan of leftovers. This time for lunch I ordered the grilled salmon sandwich at my husband’s recommendation, and he ordered the fried calamari. He usually gets some type of seafood when we go to Weathervane, and growing up in Maine has made him a good judge of what seafood is good and what stinks (sometimes literally). We’ve never been disappointed with the quality of the Weathervane seafood.
When we got our lunch, I was very pleasantly surprised at the size of the salmon sandwich. The fillet was at least 5 oz.- probably more. It was grilled with a beautiful crunchy char on the outside and nice and flaky on the inside, and though the waitress had kindly warned me about the Cajun seasoning it wasn’t overpowering. The sandwich was almost too big for me to finish, and for $9.99 I thought it was a great value. The fries were okay, although I don’t like how they always resist any amount of salting and actually seem to repel it. I respect calamari but can’t stand the texture of it so I didn’t eat any, but my husband enjoyed every last bit of them.
Despite the franchisey aspect and the indisputable fact that the restaurant’s design is pretty corny, Weathervane is one of my favorite chains. The seafood is fresh, the service is good and the menu is priced very reasonably.  Although it’s mostly a seafood restaurant I know plenty of people who just plain don’t like seafood, and Weathervane accomodates by offering steak, burgers, chicken and pasta as well. Good deals, good dishes!

Three Tomatoes Trattoria, Lebanon, NH

Posted by annabelle On May - 25 - 2011ADD COMMENTS

three tomatoes west lebanon brick oven

I have to admit, I’m a little surprised that in our five years living in the Upper Valley we have not once been to Three Tomatoes Trattoria in Lebanon, N.H. I’m usually drawn to restaurants that offer food that I can’t make at home. Italian and Mexican dishes are inexpensive and easy to make at my house- sushi and lobster, not so much. However, I do think we need to break out of our norm once in a while. I was excited about trying Three Tomatoes when my husband and I were invited to a powerlifting competition afterparty being held there by our trainer. Were we on a mission to load up on carbs for our weightlifting endeavors? Sure, why not.
Upon entering Three Tomatoes the first thing I saw was a big, beautiful brick oven. The scent inside the restaurant is wonderful, like an herby campfire. It’s decorated tastefully- the big front dining room has a bistro/cafe kind of feel, and the private dining room where our gathering was held had a beautiful mural hand-drawn on the wall and a more intimate setting.

three tomatoes harpoon ipa

It took a while for all of us (a party of at least 30) to get settled in, but our waitress was attentive and pretty darn quick for serving such a big group. My husband and I started off with a Harpoon IPA, which went great with the baguettes and garlic-infused olive oil that were waiting for us when we arrived.

The menu boasts an extensive menu of traditional Italian dishes, but since it was our first time there my husband and I decided to stay safe with alfredo. He ordered the penne, chicken and broccoli alfredo, and I had the same but was able to substitute shrimp for the chicken. My six-year-old daughter had her eye on getting her own pizza, simple marinara and mozzarella.

three tomatoes shrimp alfredo

Alfredo sauce is easy to make, and easy to make into a boring, starchy mess. Three Tomatoes makes a nice, rich-but-not-oily alfredo that is nearly addicting, and it makes me never want to waste money on stale alfredo from a jar (or Olive Garden) ever again.  My daughter’s “personal” pizza was huge- the pizzas are made one size (14 inches), and we had delicious leftovers the next day. The pizza is a very flavorful wood-fired thin crust, and the brick oven makes all the difference. I’m told I make pretty good pizza, and I won’t disagree, but unless I find myself gifted with a brick oven it won’t be the same as this.

Three Tomatoes is kind of a splurge, at least for dinner, with courses ranging from $13 to $20. The food, however, is worth every penny- the ingredients are high quality, fresh and local. I will definitely be going again, and next time I plan on eating something much more bold than alfredo. I wish we’d experienced this restaurant years ago!